Sunday, December 22, 2019

Promises Made, Promises Kept: Against All Odds

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
    in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
    that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
    and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
    to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
    before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.   --Luke 1:5-25, 57-80 (NRSV)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Word made flesh, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

It was February 1980 - the first game in the semi-final medal round of the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. The United States’ men’s hockey team was up against the team from the Soviet Union, today known as Russia. Ronald Reagan was president. It was the middle of the Cold War, the rivalry that developed after the 2nd World War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and its allies. A rivalry that was fought on many fronts, including political, economic, military, and propaganda. 

In five of the six previous Winter Olympics, the Soviet team had won the gold medal. They were the favorites to win once more in Lake Placid. Their team consisted mostly of professional hockey players, who had extensive experience playing internationally. By contrast, the U.S. team was an all-amateur team. It was the youngest team in the tournament, the youngest team in U.S. national team history. 

By the time the two teams met in that semi-final game, both of them were undefeated in tournament play. But the Soviet team was still, by far, the favorite. 

With a capacity of 8,500, the Field House, where the game was played, was packed. The home crowd was waving U.S. flags and singing patriotic songs, such as “God Bless America.” In the moments before the U.S. team entered the rink, their coach - Herb Brooks - read this statement to his players: “You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.”

As in several previous games, the U.S. team fell behind early. But, by the end of the first period, the score was tied 2-2. By the end of the second, the Soviets were leading 3-2. In the third and final period, as the game was moving to a close, the U.S. had scored two more goals, putting them in the lead by 1. Let’s pick up the last minute of play here.

The game would come to be known as the “Miracle on Ice” and would go down in sports history. The U.S. team would win the gold medal by barely defeating Finland. But the biggest win for them - the win that was against all the odds - was the win against the team from the Soviet Union.

Against all odds. How often have you heard that phrase? When something happens that is unbelievable. Even miraculous. We say it was against all odds. 

Against all odds. I wonder if that’s what Zechariah was thinking that day. He was a priest in the priestly division of Abijah, one of 24 divisions of priests established by King David. There had been so many descendents of Aaron, that David had organized them into divisions, then into family clans. For two weeks during the year, each division was responsible to carry out all of the daily functions in the temple. Kind of similar to military reserve service. Which priests would serve was determined by chance. By a lottery held each day in the temple. All of the priests of the family clan serving that day would participate in this lottery. 

On the day of our story, Zechariah had won the lottery. Against all odds, he’d won the chance to enter the temple sanctuary to make the incense offering. A once in a lifetime experience for Zechariah. What a gift it must have been for him, at his age, to win this lottery, knowing that he was getting old. That both he and his wife, Elizabeth, were getting old.

Elizabeth, too, was a descendent of Aaron. She and Zechariah were blameless followers of God and the Jewish religion. They had done everything right. Except for one thing, as if this one thing was in their control. They had no children. No descendants to continue their ancestral line from Aaron. No children in a culture where having children was everything.

Haven’t we heard this story before? Remember Sarah and Abraham. Rachel and Jacob. Remember Ruth and her sister-in-law. And now, Elizabeth and Zechariah. Barren. Without child.

So, when Zechariah entered the sanctuary that day to make the offering, when he both saw and heard the Angel Gabriel announce that he and Elizabeth were going to have a child, it is no wonder that Zechariah questioned this. After all, it was against all the odds that they, at their advanced ages, could ever expect to conceive and have a child. After all this time, it is likely they had finally come to a place of acceptance. However painful that place might have been for them.

But, isn’t that often where God meets us. In those places of pain. Or deep disappointment. Where we’ve finally come to accept that things are the way they are. Not expecting anything to change. And, yet, God brings a change anyway. An unexpected Word. A Word of hope. That our past is not our future. 

How do we respond when that word of promise - that word against the odds - is so different than what we’ve expected or experienced. Do we, like Zechariah, question it? Do we think it’s a false promise? Or do we meet it with faith? With trust that the Word of God is true?

The word of hope given to Zechariah that day in the temple was no false Word. Soon, Elizabeth would conceive. And, then, 9 months later would give birth to a son. John. John, who would be the herald of the coming Messiah and of the in-breaking reign of God into our world. 

This story in Luke is placed in the much larger story of faith. A story that began when God called Abraham and Sarah to leave their homeland. To go to a place that God would show them - a place where God promised them also, a son, and as many descendants as the stars in the sky. By Zechariah’s time, Israel has been through wars, and captivity, exile and domination by foreign rulers. By Luke’s time, the Jewish people were living under Roman domination. But, isn’t this the entire story of God’s covenant with Israel - a covenant that begins with a promise to Abraham and Sarah that is against all odds? And a covenant that comes to fulfillment in this story in Luke - a story that also begins with a promise and a birth that is against all odds?

There may be times in our lives and in our life together as God’s people when problems mount. When it is difficult to see a way forward. When it seems as though all hope for the future has been lost. When we are at a dead end. 

But it is here, in this Word of promise, where we encounter and are encountered by a God for whom there are no dead ends. Where we experience a God who specializes in making a way in the wilderness. And who opens up our future when one doesn’t seem possible. Where we encounter a God for whom nothing is against the odds. Where we encounter a God who speaks these similar words of encouragement: You were born to be a beloved child of God! You were meant to be here! This moment is yours! 

For this we rejoice! And with Zechariah, join his song of God - our God of hope and promise: 

Because of our God’s deep compassion,
the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide us on the path of peace.


Preached Sunday, December 22, 2019, at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Advent 4
Readings: Luke 1:5-25, 57-80; Psalm 113

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Promises Made, Promises Kept: Joy and Sorrow

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared:

“Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem; and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.”

When the seventh month came, and the Israelites were in the towns, the people gathered together in Jerusalem. Then Jeshua son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his kin set out to build the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as prescribed in the law of Moses the man of God. They set up the altar on its foundation, because they were in dread of the neighboring peoples, and they offered burnt offerings upon it to the Lord, morning and evening. And they kept the festival of booths, as prescribed, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the ordinance, as required for each day.

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel; and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,

“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”

And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away.  --Ezra 1:1-4; 3:1-4, 10-13 (NRSV)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

As most of you know, I spent Thanksgiving week with my son and daughter-in-law in St. Paul, Minnesota. Although I was with my family and we had a wonderful time together, I still wasn’t completely home. Home for me, even after all these years of being away - home for me is Timber Lake, South Dakota.

How many of you are going home this Christmas? What are some of the things that you look forward to when you go home? 

Today’s story is a story of going home. Since September, we’ve been following the stories of the people of Israel in the Hebrew scriptures. At times, these stories have been difficult. We heard of separation and division. Of battle and loss. Of good kings and evil leaders. And, then, last week, we heard of the story of the exile of God’s people. Carried away from home by their Babylonian captors. Scattered across the empire. All of God’s people taken away from home. From the place they love, the place promised to their enslaved ancestors, the place given to Israel after the exodus. The people of God exiled.

But, today’s story is one of going home. We heard this possibility promised last week in Isaiah - that God would raise up a Messiah to return Israel to their land out of exile. We know that, from the theological perspective of Israel, this Messiah was Cyrus the Great, emperor of Persia. We heard, in our opening verses, the official proclamation of Cyrus, issued throughout the empire to all of the diasporan Jews: Go home! Go back to the land of Judah, your home. To Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God. 

But this wasn’t all that Cyrus commanded. He also commanded those living among the dispersed Jews to send them off with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with other gifts for God’s house in Jerusalem. Everything they would need to return home, to restore their lives, and to begin to rebuild the temple. Our reading tells us that the whole assembly together totaled 42,360, not including the 7,337 male and female servants, the 200 male and female singers, the 736 horses, the 245 mules, the 435 camels, and the 6,720 donkeys - a total of 57,373 men, women, and beasts. What a procession this must have been as Israel went home!

It was in the seventh month after their return, that all of them gathered in Jerusalem at the temple - or what was left of the temple - this place had been the center of their religious life, where they had experienced the presence of God. They gathered around the ruins of the temple as one. Then, they rebuilt the altar on the very spot where the original had been built. And then, as one people, they worshiped God. Home. Together. Giving thanks to God for their return.

The next step for them was to rebuild the temple. They hired masons and carpenters. They bartered with neighboring people to bring cedar wood by sea. All of this had been authorized by Cyrus - this promised Hebrew Messiah. In two years time, they were ready to build. Once again, all of Israel gathered in Jerusalem to mark this new beginning. When the builders laid the foundation stone of God’s new temple, our story tells us that the priests, clothed in their vestments and carrying trumpets, and the Levites with their cymbals - all of them rose up to praise the Lord, using the very words or words similar to the psalm we spoke earlier. “God is good. God’s graciousness for Israel lasts forever.”

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience. But, I know that when I went home for the first time after having moved and lived away for a few years in a very different place, things were not the same. Even though they may have looked the same and the people were the same, for me, things felt different. Perhaps it was because I had changed. Perhaps it was because I had experienced so much in those few short years. Isn’t that often what it’s like? That as time passes and our life happens, we change. Maybe what we remember from the past isn’t quite what it was. Maybe we’ve learned to think in a different way as a result of new experiences. Maybe we’ve gained a new understanding about life. Maybe we’ve lost things or loved ones. Or shed old ideas. For whatever reason, when we’ve returned home, thinking we would get it back, that things would be the same, it’s not. So much so that coming home doesn’t feel like coming home.

This is what was happening to many of the Israelites in our story, particularly, those who were older. Who had experienced loss and sadness. Who had felt the pain of exile. Who had known the grandeur of the previous temple and could easily see that this new temple was not like the old. That it was much less. That is wasn’t the same, but that it was very different.

And so, as the others shout with joy and thanksgiving, they weep with sadness and other bittersweet emotion. The sounds of joy and sadness intermingled. So much so that they could not be distinguished from each other. Heard at a great distance. With shouts and weeping mixed all together.

For many of us, Advent can be a very similar time of mixed emotion. As we anticipate Christmas, it’s hard not to feel somewhat bittersweet. To feel as though joy and sorrow are wrapped together. Intermingled. Almost hard to separate. Because life now is not what it was. What or whom we’ve lost will not return. What we remember in our pasts are no longer how things are. 

Nevertheless, like Israel, we are invited into this place - into worship with all of our emotion, with our joy and laughter and with our sadness and tears. That we might experience the presence of God. That we might remember God’s faithfulness. And that we might trust that God is working to make all things new.

Because this was God’s promise for Israel. This is God’s promise for us. Amen.

Preached Sunday, December 15, 2019, at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Advent 3
Readings: Ezra 1:1-4; 3:1-4, 10-13; Luke 2:25-32; Psalm 102:12-22.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Promises Made, Promises Kept: Comfort, Comfort!

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
    their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
    but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
    O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
    O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
    lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead the mother sheep. --Isaiah 40:1-11 (NRSV)

Grace, mercy, and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

After the orchestral overture, every performance of the Messiah begins with this Tenor solo. “Comfort ye. Comfort ye my people.” 

This past week, along with a couple of our members, I attended a Messiah sing-along at Our Savior’s Lutheran. If you’ve never participated in one, I encourage you to go.  I’ve both heard and sung the Messiah a lot. In high school, our choir performed parts of it. In college, I sang in several performances of it. And, since then, I’ve listened to it numerous times, as well as participated in sing-alongs in California, Texas, and, now, here. One could say that I know this piece of music well.

There was one thing I forgot, though. While I know the words well and know that the entire work is based on scripture, I’d forgotten that the first third of it is based on Isaiah 40, which is our text today. It’s a text written from a place of exile. Or at least this part is. Because Isaiah is believed to have been written in two, perhaps even three different parts at different times. The first part, ending with chapter 39, was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. Before the defeat and exile of Judah by the Babylonians. There is a marked difference, though, between chapter 39 and chapter 40 - chapter 40 identified as the beginning of Second Isaiah. This difference was first identified by careful readers of scripture in the 12th century, who noticed that it came from a person and a time quite different from that of First Isaiah, chapters 1-39. 

Today’s text is set about 50 years after the remainder of the Jewish people have been dispersed throughout the empire. The empire itself has now been defeated by Cyrus the Great of Persia. The one whom the Hebrew scriptures call the Messiah. Not Jesus - who we, with our New Testament lenses - identify as the Messiah, but Cyrus the Great. Because it is this Persian - this Messiah - who will restore remnants of the Jewish people to their homeland.  It is this good news of a coming second exodus to the promised land that begins with Isaiah 40, our reading for this morning.

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.” The reading opens in the divine court. God Almighty is imagined seated on a throne, surrounded by many courtiers. Some of these are the former gods of the Canaanites. Others are specific Israelite figure who will attend the divine king. Admission to this court, to this divine council, can make one a prophet in Israel. It is to this divine council that God speaks these opening words of consolation. In the Hebrew, they are an imperative plural. A command directed to many. “Comfort my people,” God the Almighty God commands God’s court. “Jerusalem has served her term. Her penalty has been paid. Speak tenderly to her.”

One rabbi in Jewish thought argues that it was God who needed to be comforted rather than the people. He argued that, if someone owns a vineyard and thieves enter it and destroy it, who is it who needs the comfort - the vineyard, or its owner? Or, if someone burns down a house, who needs comforting, the owners of the house or the structure that burned? This rabbinic midrash argues that it is God’s house (the temple) that has been burned, and God’s vineyard (the people) who have been destroyed. We should be comforting God, not expecting God to comfort us, writes this wise Jewish rabbi.

The reading continues with a command in verse 3, from one of the members of the divine court. To prepare a way. We, in the 21st century, should easily understand what it might take to build this highway back. To knock down the mountains, to level out the valleys, to make the ground even so that the route will be smooth and even. So that it will be easy to traverse. But the meaning here in Hebrew is not entirely clear. It can be interpreted in two ways: that the way is being made for God to return to God’s people, or that the way is being made for God’s people to return to God. However one might interpret this, the meaning is clear: God and God’s people are no longer to be apart. The exodus that follows this new and level highway will once again bring them in grand procession back to Jerusalem. In a procession so grand that, in fact, “all flesh” will see it.

It is God who has engineered this return. Not human beings, whose qualities wither and face. But, God, with the power and steadfastness of God’s Word. God has made this happen. God, who is strong and mighty, who protects God’s people. God, who is also gentle and tender, caring for God’s flock as a shepherd cares for her sheep. God comes with a reward, not as God had once come with punishment. This coming will bring freedom and happiness. This coming will bring joy to the people at last.

It’s so tempting for us to interpret this text with our New Testament lenses as a prophetic text, announcing the eventual birth of John the Baptist - that messenger bringing the good news of Jesus. But, what if we were to simply let this text from Second Isaiah stand on its own? What meaning might it have for us, as God’s people in our context?

Perhaps it's a recognition that all of us, in some form, in some way in our lives, like Israel, have experienced trauma. Now we have not experienced displacement, unlike many others in our world today. But trauma still exists in our lives, however it may manifest itself. Perhaps, it's the loss of a spouse. Or a child. A health diagnosis, or an unexpected hospitalization. Perhaps it’s the loss of a job, or a house, or a way of life. Perhaps, it’s the loss of our youth, or our independence. I dare say that each one of us has experienced trauma at some point, or at many points, in our lives.

And, for a time, we may walk away from God. And from church, from the community of God’s people as we try to make sense of our hurt and our loss. Yet, eventually, God works in our hearts to bring us back. Not only to God, but, to each other. Because it is here, in this place, among God’s people, where we who need comfort receive it. Where we give it to those who need it. The command to comfort in Isaiah 40 is an imperative plural. We are to comfort. We are to receive comfort. Here. With God, among God’s people, in God’s church. It is why God is always working to bring us back.

Earlier this year, an important, contemporary theologian died. His name was Eugene Peterson. You might know him best as the author of “The Message Bible,” an influential paraphrase of scripture intended to make its message understandable for us in this time and place. At his funeral, his son Leif eulogized him, revealing that he used to joke with his father and tell him that he really “only had one sermon, one message” even though he had spent decades in creatively sharing the Bible with people in new ways. “It’s almost laughable how you fooled them,” his son wrote. “How for 30 years every week you made them think you were saying something new. They thought you were a magician in your long black robe hiding so much in your ample sleeves, always pulling out something fresh and making them think it was just for them.”

“But they didn’t know how simple it all was. They were blind to your secret,” Leif Peterson said. It was a secret he knew, though, because it was what his father had been telling him every night for 50 years. It’s a secret we know, because it’s the same message we hear in our Isaiah text today and in every part of scripture we read and listen to Sunday after Sunday after Sunday and in between.

What is this secret that Eugene Peterson whispered nightly to his son? This good news for the people of Isaiah’s day? This message for us?

God loves you.
God forgives you.
God is coming after you.
God is relentless.


Preached Sunday, December 8, 2019, at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Advent 2
Readings: Isaiah 40:1-11, Psalm 85, Mark 1:1-4

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Our Sin, God's Faithfulness: Who is Your King?

Grace and peace to you from God, our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sustainer. Amen.

At the beginning of worship this morning, we talked about discoveries. About finding things during excavations. Things that have been hidden for a time. Have you ever put something in a “safe place” and then forgotten where that something was? How many of you have ever bought Christmas presents weeks or months ahead of time, put them somewhere in your home, and, then, when it comes time to wrap and give them, can no longer find them? Welcome to my world!

Our story today is a story of discovery. For the past few weeks, we’ve been reading in the prophets. Today, we are turning to second Kings, chapters 22 and 23. For the first several minutes today, we’re going to work our way through the text, section by section. Let’s begin our discovery by reading at verse 1. 

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left. --2 Kings 22:1-2 (NRSV)

Our story is set during the reign of King Josiah. We are about 100 years after the setting of last week’s reading in Isaiah, around 620 BC, in the southern kingdom. Josiah has just become king, at the ripe age of 8 years old. The northern kingdom has fallen. Although Assyria has already begun to encroach into Judah, Jerusalem still stands. Josiah’s reign happens about 35 years before the Assyrian empire will collapse and the Babylonians will come from the south and defeat and capture Jerusalem, and exile the Jewish people from their homeland. We are near the end, near the catastrophic failure of the line of King David. About 586 BC.

We’ve talked before about these historical texts in the Hebrew scripture, that they are theological histories. Each of these stories has elements from actual history, but they are not written for historical purposes, but for theological reasons. They present clear theologies, clear understandings of the way the world works or is supposed to work. There is a lot of what we might call confirmation bias - finding evidence of God in history. It’s often what we like to do in our own lives, when we look at something in our own histories and believe we can seek the hand of God at work. 

These books from Joshua through Kings are called Deuteronomistic histories - histories that are read through the lens of Deuteronomy - the book in the Torah that gave Israel an understanding of what an ideal king should be, even before there were any kings. In these first verses, King Josiah begins his reign as an 8 year old. Verse 2 says that he did “what was right in the sight of the Lord.” That he did not “turn aside to the right or to the left.” This is direct language from Deuteronomy about what a good king should look like. There are only three kings in scripture described in this way: David, Hezekiah, and Josiah.

The book of Chronicles in two parts is a companion to the book of Kings. It expands in areas where Kings doesn’t. So, if we turn to 2nd Chronicles, chapter 34, we read what it looks like for a king to do what is right in the sight of God, to not turn aside to the right or to the left. Chronicles tells us that, in Josiah’s eighth year, he began to seek God. At 12, he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the “high places,” the shrines where people would go to worship the Baals, which, as I mentioned last week, were representative of all the gods that the people had begun to worship. All of the other gods except for the true God. Josiah not only purged the “high places,” but removed the incense altars, the sacred poles, the carved and cast images and the priests that had distracted the people from the true God. All of the cultural artifacts that had pulled them away from God.

This is what a good leader does. A good leader turns to God and then works to turn his or her people to God.

We read on. 

In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the Lord, saying, “Go up to the high priest Hilkiah, and have him count the entire sum of the money that has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people; let it be given into the hand of the workers who have the oversight of the house of the Lord; let them give it to the workers who are at the house of the Lord, repairing the house, that is, to the carpenters, to the builders, to the masons; and let them use it to buy timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”

The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it. Then Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workers who have oversight of the house of the Lord.” Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “The priest Hilkiah has given me a book.” Shaphan then read it aloud to the king. --2 Kings 22:3-10 (NRSV)

Part of Josiah’s reform was to begin restoration of the temple in Jerusalem, which had fallen into disrepair. We get a true sense of Josiah’s leadership and of his people here. That Josiah trusted them to do the right things. To live in upright and honest ways because this was how he lived and how he led them. There was no need to double-check the work of the temple workers, because they could be trusted. Just as their leader could be trusted.

It is in the midst of the temple repair that a discovery is made. The book of the law. The Torah. Which included in it, the book of Deuteronomy - this guide book for how a king should lead. Josiah asks that this newly-discovered book be read aloud to him.

When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary, and the king’s servant Asaiah, saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” --2 Kings 22:11-13 (NRSV) 

When Josiah hears the words, he tears his clothes. In the Jewish tradition, this represents that something very bad has happened. So, he sends his advisors to go to God’s prophet to inquire of God. One must wonder if this is our first step when something bad has happened to us. Or the first place our leaders turn. Do we seek God’s guidance first?

So the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; she resided in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter, where they consulted her. She declared to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord, I will indeed bring disaster on this place and on its inhabitants—all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. Because they have abandoned me and have made offerings to other gods, so that they have provoked me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. But as to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place, and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the Lord. Therefore, I will gather you to your ancestors, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring on this place.” They took the message back to the king. --2 Kings 22:14-20 (NRSV) 

If Josiah thought he had heard bad news before, this news is so much worse. “You’ll be okay for right now, but the future for your country will be no more.” It is news that God will not change God’s plan even though the people have turned back and re-committed themselves to God. Or that they are now walking in God’s ways. The prophetess Huldah does not have hopeful words for the kingdom of Judah. Because choices have consequences.

Then the king directed that all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem should be gathered to him. The king went up to the house of the Lord, and with him went all the people of Judah, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the prophets, and all the people, both small and great; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant. --2 Kings 23:1-3 (NRSV) 

So what does Josiah do with the information that Jerusalem will be doomed? He gathers everyone together. All Jerusalem. And he reads all of the discovered scroll - the Torah or the instruction - to them. Publicly. All of it. Following the command found in Deuteronomy 31, that the king will command everyone to assemble and read the words. To re-commit themselves to the covenant. And so, with Josiah knowing the eventual doom that will come to Jerusalem, he reads scripture to them. And then he, knowing their fate but not telling the people their fate, will, with them, re-commit. And by the end of chapter 23, we find a king and a people who are fully in. Who have shed the artifacts of culture that have pulled them away. And who have committed themselves to God once again. This is the highest point for God’s people since King David.

This is a hard text. What are we to do with this story? What sense of it are we to make for ourselves? We, who are on the other side of history from this text? Knowing the eventual destruction of Jerusalem, the exile of the people, the loss of the temple - their religious center?

Friends, our choices today have consequences. If not for us, then for future generations. There are any number of issues I might point out here: climate change; the growing gap between rich and poor; our selfish focus in the church on individual salvation rather than the shalom, the wholeness of the entire community; a government we have elected that, day after day, we learn is more and more corrupt, whether you watch Fox News or MSNBC. All of our choices have consequences. If not immediate, then in the future. 

What are we to do in the midst of this, in this unknown times, wondering if our own future destruction is only years away? King Josiah helps us in this respect. Even when it seems there is no hope, we turn to the Word. It is here in reading scripture that we are pointed back to God. Where, in the Word made manifest in the form of a baby king, we find hope for the future. A promised future - God’s promised future - of peace. Where all are fed, where all are restored to community, where creation is made whole, where only justice and righteousness reign.

And so as we wait for that future of the reign of Christ, we live as people of God, shedding the artifacts and things that distract us from God. Following God’s command, first given in Deuteronomy, then expanded by our King and Savior Jesus Christ, through whom all of us have been freed. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And your neighbor as yourself.” Amen.

Preached November 24, 2019, at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Christ the King Sunday
Readings: 2 Kings 22:1-20, 23:1-3; Luke 24:30-32, Psalm 105:1-6 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Our Sin, God's Faithfulness: A Vineyard Love Song

Let me sing for my beloved
    my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
    and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
    and people of Judah,
judge between me
    and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard
    that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
    why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you
    what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
    and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
    and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
    it shall not be pruned or hoed,
    and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
    that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
    is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
    are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
    but saw bloodshed;
    but heard a cry! 
--Isaiah 5:1-7 (NRSV)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

When I was around 30 years old, I met a man. I’d been divorced at this point for about 2 years and life as a working single mom was busy and, often, pretty hard. So, the idea of dating was a bit beyond me. However, one day, work colleagues of mine invited me to go out dancing with them one evening. I was resistant at first, thinking of all of the chores I still had to do at home, plus the challenge of finding a babysitter for my young son. But, they kept working on me and, eventually, I agreed.

They had a favorite hangout spot. It was this combination restaurant and bar that was on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, one of the wealthier communities in Los Angeles, which was where they also lived. We agreed that I would meet them there that evening. 

About 30 minutes into the evening, as I was wondering why I’d ever agreed to come, a gentleman approached our table to greet my friends. He was quite a bit older than we were. But, he was known to my friends and was respected in the community. He was a well known hotel developer. Wealthy. Very smart. Best of all, he was a great dancer! Over the next few minutes, we began to engage in conversation. And, then, to dance together. 

Have you ever had that sense after having just met someone that you are unexpectedly being pulled into a relationship? There is a sense of underlying excitement and an electricity that happens, that’s hard to explain. It’s a type of infatuation that happens, when everything just clicks. And it feels like it's destiny. 

Well, that’s what happened that evening to both of us. Over the next few weeks, we were in this whirlwind period of romance. Then, one Saturday morning, I received a call from him, saying we needed to talk. He’d spent the morning eating breakfast with friends - friends who were his age - who had convinced him of the folly of our relationship. The “May-November” nature of our relationship, if you will. And so, in that phone call, he told me we could no longer see each other. And, he broke up with me.

Earlier in worship this morning, we shared the names of love songs with each other. What we didn’t share, though, were the names of “break-up songs.” At that moment in my life, when it felt as though my destiny - as though our destiny - had been destroyed by his friends, this was my “break-up song.” 

The first part of our reading this morning from Isaiah is nothing more than a break-up song. A love song about a love that has gone awry. A song of a farmer and his vineyard. A farmer who has taken the utmost care to prepare the land for a bountiful harvest of grapes for wine-making. Not just any grapes, but the best grapes, the most excellent grapes. He has planted this vineyard on a fertile hill. He has done everything to ensure the growth of his precious vines -  digging up the dirt, clearing the stones, planting the choicest vines. Then, placing a tower in the midst of the vineyard - a watchtower - so that he might watch for those unwanted animals that might come and destroy his newly-planted vines. Digging out a wine vat, also in the midst of the vineyard, to make this wine that will be the best wine, of the highest quality. 

This is a love song that begins with such a sense of expectation and anticipation. An infatuation, if you must. And, then, we get to this line of the song, in verse 4, which ends with this question - a lament really. From the farmer: “When I expected my vineyard to yield good grapes, why did it yield rotten grapes?”

The next step the farmer takes is logical. With vines that have produced such a poor harvest, he removes the fences surrounding his previous vineyard. Allowing the natural predators to come in and destroy it. He stops farming the vineyard, allowing the thorns and thistles to grow up. The farmer walks away from what was once his beloved vineyard. Broken-hearted. Singing nothing other than a break up song. And, then, near the end of the song, we realize that this is not a song about a farmer and a vineyard. But this is a song - a breakup song - about God and God’s people.

The book of Isaiah is written in two parts by the prophet Isaiah. Unlike Hosea last week, who was a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel, Isaiah is located in the southern kingdom, in Jerusalem. Isaiah has been witness to the destruction of the northern kingdom and the exile of Judah’s northern kin. It is this destruction and exile of Israel in the north that is the subject of this first part of Isaiah. A lament. A break-up song between God and God’s people. A people from whom God expected the production of good fruit. The fruits of - as we read in verse 7 - fruits of justice and righteousness. And yet, instead, Israel has become a people who have produced bad fruit. Fruits of bloodshed and distress. The harvest is not simply poor or inadequate. The harvest is evil. 

Friends, we are like this harvest. Like Israel. Our world produces similar fruit. A harvest from which God expects justice and righteousness. Where salvation is not just the hope of us as individuals, but where salvation in God’s eyes is about the establishment of a just society. Where the common good is of utmost importance. Where justice and righteousness prevail. A world in which the rights of all, including the most marginalized, are respected. Isaiah’s musical metaphor is a stinging rebuke to Israel, and to us, of the world we have created. A world that produces bloodshed. And cries. Particularly, the cries of children. Hungry. Living in unsafe conditions. In fear of the next mass shooting. Or separated from their parents.

For ten full chapters in this first part of Isaiah, we hear the lament of God over this harvest. Heavy, sobering words from God to the people of Judah, intended to wake them from their similar stupor. We hear God’s sense of despair at their unfaithfulness. At our unfaithfulness.

But, then, suddenly. Unexpectedly. The song changes in chapter 11.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.
--Isaiah 11:1-9 (NRSV)

As the song begins, the vineyard is a stump. Nothing more than a stump that appears to be dead. But, this stump still has roots. And as we listen to the song, Isaiah lifts our eyes. This is a song of a new
vision. An acknowledgement that life is about to be different. An intrusion of good news - very good news to the people of Judah. That, out of this seemingly dead stump, will come a new shoot. And, then, a branch. A new king. Who wears on his mantle the spirit of wisdom and understanding. The spirit of counsel and might. The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. The very words used in each of our baptisms.

This new king will judge with righteousness and equity. With a single-minded devotion to the community and to justice - a devotion that will require the abandonment of his own ambition. A new king, through whose leadership, the order of peace will be reestablished. A whole peace. Shalom. Not simply a peace among humans, but a peace that encompasses all of creation. Harmony will be restored.

What a vision! What a love song this is! Where children are safe and where the most likely of enemies live beside each other in peace. Where no one and nothing will be hurt or destroyed. Because the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of God.

By placing this vision - this love song - into the midst of the very stark realities of Israel’s life, into the midst of the stark realities of our lives, Isaiah reminds us that occasionally we need to stop and allow ourselves the privilege of seeing life not how it is, but about how it can be. About how God desires it to be and promises that it will be. Not a breakup song. But, a love song. A love story. A story of hope. A vision of peace. A true destiny for you and I and all creation. A destiny of justice and righteousness. And peace. And love.

May we long for this love song! And may we learn to sing it with our God. Amen.

Preached November 17, 2019, at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Pentecost 23
Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7, 11:1-9; Mark 12:1-3; Psalm 107:38-43

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Our Sin, God's Faithfulness: God, Parent, Metaphor

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, our Parent, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

We’ve been reading about prophets recently as they have participated in the stories of Israel. Last week, for example, we heard about the Prophet Elijah. Today, we’re moving into a section of scripture that is written by and about the prophets themselves. Take out, if you will, one of the pew Bibles in front of you and turn to the Table of Contents. The Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, isn’t organized chronologically in date order, but by the type of writing in each book. This past fall, we read our first lessons from the first group of books. These first books are called...anyone? The Torah. Or the Law. Or the Instruction. Or, sometimes, the Books of Moses. Anyone remember how many books are in the Torah? Yes, there are five.

The next group of books are the Histories. They begin with the Book of Joshua and extend to the book of Esther. Why do you think they are called the Histories? That’s right, they tell the history of the Israelites, as they settled into the Promised Land, then how the kingdom was first unified and then divided. They close with the time of exile, when first the northern kingdom - Israel - and then the southern kingdom - Judah - were conquered by other empires.  

After the Histories come the Wisdom books. There are five of these. Let’s name them: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs or Solomon.

Finally, the rest of the Hebrew scriptures are the writings of the Prophets. The first five books are what we call the Major prophets. We call them this because they are longer and their prophecies are broader and more far-reaching. The remaining books are called the Minor prophets, because they are shorter and their prophecies are more specific to their context or their situation. So, if the first five are the major prophets, which book is the first of the minor prophets? Hosea. Who is the prophet we are reading from today. Look for the page on which Hosea begins. Then, open to Hosea and find Chapter 11. Follow along as I read verses 1-9. 

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
    the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
    and offering incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    I took them up in my arms;
    but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
    with bands of love.
I was to them like those
    who lift infants to their cheeks.
    I bent down to them and fed them.

They shall return to the land of Egypt,
    and Assyria shall be their king,
    because they have refused to return to me.
The sword rages in their cities,
    it consumes their oracle-priests,
    and devours because of their schemes.
My people are bent on turning away from me.
    To the Most High they call,
    but he does not raise them up at all.

How can I give you up, Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
    How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
    my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my fierce anger;
    I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and no mortal,
    the Holy One in your midst,
    and I will not come in wrath. --Hosea 11:1-9 (NRSV)

One of my favorite things about social media are the photos and stories shared by friends and family that include their children. Some of my friends have children that are still quite small; others have children who are grown. Yet, no matter the age, they are, to their parents, still their kids.

Raising (or really, the proper term is rearing) children can be the most amazing experience. It can also be the hardest. Our kids start out small and helpless. We can’t wait until they can learn to crawl or to walk. And, then, when they do, we’re horrified about what they do and get into. Or, we work with them over and over to say words, to name things, to talk. And then, when they reach that point at about 2 or 3 where we pray that, for just a minute or two, they will be quiet. Or we’re terrified about what they might actually say in public.

There’s a story about parents who taught their daughter to always compliment people who insulted her. So, one day, as the family was out shopping, a stranger said something rude to the mom. Her daughter caught on that her mom was angry. So, she popped out in front of her mom and said to the woman who had been so rude, “Your teeth are such a pretty yellow!”

We try so hard to teach our children important lessons. We set boundaries around them to protect them. We constantly talk to them about hard things that happen at school or on the sports field to help them learn or, perhaps, consider a better way of doing things. It’s like the man who wanted to teach his son the value of money and a work ethic because he kept wanting  Robux, which is virtual currency to purchase special abilities in the Roblox video game (I only know this from my experiences with my own son who is a gamer!). So, he created a chore chart and gave each household chore a value. Then, they established a schedule together. It was working wonderfully! Every day his son did what he was supposed to do without having to be told: washing dishes, cleaning up his room, picking up dog poop. And on and on. It was epic!

Then, one day, the man came home and nothing had been done. He confronted his son. “Hey, man, what’s up with the dishes? Go wash them. Oh, and while you’re at it, don’t forget to pickup the dog poop in the backyard. He son looked at him, as only a child can look at a parent, and said, “Nah. I made enough Robux to get what I wanted. So, I’m good now.”

Sometimes the lessons we try to teach our children backfire on us. And, then, we’re the ones learning the lesson.

Today’s passage in Hosea 11 is a passage that every parent can relate to. We set those boundaries for our children and then watch in agony as they push through them. Or we feel the wounds going deep in our hearts when we hear our child say for the first time, “I hate you.” How can this child, whom we have cared for, for whom we have provided every need, for whom we have lost sleep over, for whom we have cleaned up, coddled and kissed - how can this child do this or say this to us? How can they break our hearts like this?

God, as Israel’s parent, is in the very same position. Israel is that willful child - that rebellious child - that pushes against the boundaries God has set for them, just as our toddlers and then our teenagers do. Even worse, Israel has seemingly rejected all of the values and traditions that God has taught them, that God has shared with them. Israel is oppressing the poor. Israel is worshiping other gods now. Israel is ignoring God, going back to Egypt who enslaved her for support. She goes to Assyria’s king for aid, even though he doesn’t have her best interests at heart. 

God looks at Israel - God’s own child - just as we look at our own children as they sleep and wonder how they can do this. How, after we have loved them, taught them to walk, took them in our arms, healed them, led them with kindness, with love. Lifted them up as babies and held them against our cheeks as we smelled their sweet smell. Or bent down to feed them. How can they do this? And, for just a moment in Hosea, we get a glimpse of God’s deep suffering. A glimpse of the suffering that God experiences when we rebel. When we ignore God. When we walk away.

Israel will, of course, realize the consequences of her choices. Her identity will be torn apart by her choices. She will be broken and battered. She will not be safe from the sword. Violence will consume all of her people. 

And God’s heart will be broken.

If it were you or I, we might just walk away. “Enough!” we might say in agony. “Enough of this! I’ve done everything I can. There’s nothing more I can do.” This might be our very valid and human response. 

But, this is not God’s response. Because God’s mercy runs hot. God’s love runs deep. God will never refuse the child. God will welcome Israel back with warmth and tenderness. Even when the child expects to be condemned by God, that is not what they will receive. Instead, they will receive an invitation. A welcome home. And a reminder that they are a beloved child of God.

We, too, are beloved children of God. Even when we rebel, when we ignore God, when we walk away and we suffer the consequence of our own sinful choices or of a world that is so fully broken, we know that this is not God’s plan. That we should be harmed. That we should hurt. That we should suffer. No matter how far we have strayed. No matter what we have done or what has been done to us. We are like Israel, God’s beloved child. God’s heart beats for us. God’s love is never ending. There is nothing we can do to change this. So, come home. Live with God. 

“For I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.”

Welcome home, beloved of God! Amen.

Preached Sunday, November 10, 2019, at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Pentecost 22
Readings: Hosea 11:1-9, Mark 10:13-14, Psalm 2